Isalo & the Route South

Cultural interest in old Antsirabe. Varied scenic beauty and wildlife safaris in Ranomafana & Isalo National Parks.


The Route South from Tana to the south-west coast includes many typical Madagascar highland towns as well the remarkable Isalo National Park and Ranomafana National Park.

Heading south from Antananarivo, you drive through luxuriant vegetation to Antsirabe. Along the way you'll see the highland landscape with its rice-fields, Merina villages and eroded hills called “lavaka”. This is almost reminiscent of the Far East, with its lush green terraced paddy fields.

Antsirabe is a colonial spa town on Madagascar’s high plateau. It has a cool climate and thermal springs, But it is also one of the most attractive towns in Madagascar. Its former colonial glory can be seen in the wide boulevards, cathedral and the original thermal baths. Colourful “pousse-pousse” carriages and street vendors are everywhere you look. With local craftsmen such as stone cutters or zebu horn carvers at work on the streets. The tiny model cars and bicycles are very cute and there’s even a traditional sweet shop!

Giant leaf-tailed gecko in Ranomafana

Ranomafana National Park

Ranomafana is on a series of steep hills. Numerous small streams tumble down the valley via waterfalls and rapids. So it can only really be explored on foot because of these streams. Here you can find the very rare Golden bamboo lemur. And some of the commonly seen lemurs include diademed sifakas. These are the ones who love to leap through the forest canopy.

Ring tailed lemur safari in Ranomafana

Continue south, perhaps stopping overnight at the charming town of Fianarantsoa. This town has a lovely setting on a series of terraced hillsides, surrounded by forest. It has an atmospheric old upper town with crumbling colonial buildings, narrow winding streets and churches everywhere.

Isalo National Park

Finally the striking Isalo National Park stands out, literally and figuratively – a real focal point. The Isalo massif lies amidst the relatively flat arid grasslands. It offers an awe-inspiring landscape where quirky eroded sandstone outcrops protrude in architectural formations. Here you can enjoy hiking and swimming in the natural rock pools.

Pool in Isalo National Park

Then you can continue south to the beaches n the south-west of Madagascar, such as Ifaty, for some well-earned R & R.


Why you may love it

  • Diversity of landscapes and climate leads to a diversity of lemurs and other wildlife.
  • 12 species of lemur in Ranomafana
  • Range of walking trails in Ramofanana and Isalo from 1-2 hours to full day hikes
  • Enjoy the colourful and unusual markets in the towns of Antsirabe .
  • Visit the various artisans to see rope-making, weaving and wood-carving.
  • Dramatic gorges and canyons in Isalo contain natural pools for swimming which are coloured a surreal brilliant turquoise-green.
  • Visit the “fenêtre de l’Isalo” (window of Isalo) in the late afternoon as the sun sets.
  • Opt to spend a night at a cultural home stay in the village of Belazao. Enjoy walking, mountain-biking, hiking up to Mount Itavo.

When to visit Isalo & the Route South

Mid-November to March

Rainy summer season

The interior climate of Madagascar is affected by altitude so temperatures are always cooler than on the coast. In summer, this region has a very pleasant temperature climate. But as elsewhere, it rains much more in the summer with high rainfall from mid-November through to late March. The rains can make travelling around on the poorer roads quite difficult so expect slower travelling times.
MAX TEMP 27 ℃ / 81 ℉
MIN TEMP 18 ℃ / 64 ℉

April to early May

Pleasant shoulder season

This, along with September-October is the best time for the interior of Madagascar. Daytime and night-time temperatures are very pleasant and it only rains every 4 days or so… But the rainforest terrain will still be wet after the summer so longer hikes can be muddy especially in early April.
MAX TEMP 26 ℃ / 79 ℉
MIN TEMP 16 ℃ / 61 ℉

Mid May to Sept

Dry but nights are colder

This is also a good time to visit as it is dry (rain every 5-6 days). As this is a mountainous region, night time temperatures can drop to below 10C. Also winter winds can sometimes pick up dust from the parched ground in the south.
MAX TEMP 11 ℃ /.51 ℉
MIN TEMP 21 ℃ / 70 ℉

October to mid-Nov

Best time to visit

This is probably the best time to visit as the drier months continue but days and nights are warmer. Rainfall starts to increase in November.
MAX TEMP 22 ℃ / 72 ℉
MIN TEMP 31 ℃ / 88 ℉

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Did you know
  • LandmarksIsalo Park looks most like Colorado.
  • BeerAntsirabe's fame comes from its beer-making.